Governments are inherently weird. They often operate in ways that seam completely devoid of any logic or reason and are sometimes even draped in tradition and even in superstition. Nowhere is this more obvious to me than in my own country’s parliament called Alþingi. In parliament there are currently 6 different parties, The Independence Party, The Progressive Party, The Social Democratic Party, The Left-Green Party, The Bright Future and The Pirate Party. The conservative Independence Party and the populist Progressive Party form a majority coalition. Now the parliament has just reconvened after a summer vacation lasting approximately 3,5 months. During this time there is no way to start ask the ruling parties proper questions about how they are handling things while everybody goes on vacation.
Now for the really weird part. According to tradition all members of parliament are supposed to march into church and attend mass before parliament reconvenes. Despite Iceland’s international reputation for being a liberal and tolerant country we have this very obvious form of injustice called a state church. Inevitably the politics of the church corrupt national politics and national politics corrupt the church. For the past few years this day has usually coincided with protests against the government but this year was relatively quiet. This may result in the ruling parties patting themselves on the back as they usually do. But how do you protest when you have no specific list of demands? That list would be too long to put down on a piece of paper.
Now, in all this mess, some politicians claim that parliament should command respect from the public. No matter how disrespectful they might be behaving towards the public, they should still command compulsory respect. Now it may very well be that a governmental institution should be well respected, if it had earned said respect. Another weird tradition in parliament says that everybody shall wear suits, in fact you can be sent home of you show up wearing blue jeans. What is so disrespectful about blue jeans? Jeans in a certain way represent some of the greatest things about western democracy. They were a very expensive yet popular item on the black market in Soviet Russia. But more importantly Icelanders tend to preach “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” but at least as far as our parliament is concerned, the cover is certainly being judged.
Compulsory respect has always struck me as a bit shady. Respect is and should be earned and should not be taken lightly. So how does a government regain the respect of it’s people? First and foremost the government needs to listen to it’s people. The problem is today that it has no proper means to listen in the way it needs to listen. While people may have learned plenty of lessons from the 2008 financial collapse in this country, very few politicians truly have. Now I recently became a quasi politician as I was offered to be The Pirate Party’s representative in Reykavík’s Council of Education and Youth. The mountain I have to climb to truly change things for the better is enormous. The fundamentals of politics in Iceland really have not changed one bit. The Pirate Party here may have gotten further than any Pirate Party in Europe but we none the less have a long road ahead of us. It would be nice to see politicians who act more like normal people. Wear clothes that don’t cost a few monthly wages for your normal low wage worker. Politicians who are willing to admit when they make mistakes, instead of repeating the same ones over and over again. Last but not least that when there is a series of protests outside the parliaments that get the attention of the whole world that they learn something from it.